China bishop to be ordained with Vatican blessing-paper

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HONG KONG, Nov 16 (Reuters) The delayed ordination of a new Catholic bishop in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou is expected to take place in December with the approval of both the Vatican and Beijing, a Hong Kong newspaper reported today.

The elevation of Father Joseph Gan Junqiu could be yet another sign of the Vatican's growing keenness for rapprochement with China, following the unilateral ordinations of three bishops without papal approval last year.

China's 8-12 million Catholics are split between an official church sanctioned by the state and an underground church that rejects government ties and answers only to Rome.

Gan's ordination was ''likely to be December 3'' the South China Morning Post reported, quoting an unnamed source.

While Gan's elevation to the long vacant Guangzhou diocese had been approved as early as January, reported disagreements over who would conduct the ordination Mass had led to the extended delay, the paper reported.

''With the Pope having approved his promotion, he (Gan) has the right to decide the ordination date,'' the paper quoted Father Francis Tan Tiande of Sacred Heart Cathedral as saying.

But the paper quoted Gan himself as saying a final decision had yet to be made.

''I still need to discuss it with other relevant organisations ... I would like to invite bishops from other dioceses to my ordination,'' Gan was quoted as saying.

REUTERS SG RK1015

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